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I am 22 years old with little experience with young children.

My family (my husband, 5 year old daughter, and myself) moved into my grandmother's house to help her with her illnesses. My husband works 13 hours every day and has little time with the family so I often feel like a single mom.

My daughter is simply out of control. I ask her to do simple things like clean up after playing and she throws the biggest fit and calls me names and often physically gets in my face and yells at me and will sometimes pinch or hit.

Nap time is horrible --she is so active (cheer, school, playtime) I want her to be well rested so she can enjoy her self and be pleasant.

She started school last week and is doing very well however when ever she is around me she completely disrespects me. However, with my husband she tries to sass him but he just tells her to stop and she does. I constantly feel defeated because I don't know what I'm doing wrong and my grandmother thinks she knows but only makes things worse. Every time I say no (which I feel is only at ridiculous requests) she throws a fit.

I am going crazy, losing sleep and weight. I want to give up sometimes. How do I save my family!?

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How do you say "no"? Maybe she do not believe in this "no"? –  Guillaume Sep 23 '13 at 2:39

5 Answers 5

Take heart, this can be fixed!

My (now 21 year old) daughter had very similar behavior patterns when she was a youngster. She was wonderful for everyone else and a terror to us. I answered a similar question at length. You can read the whole thing, but I will summarize.

  • Read "The Strong Willed Child" by Dr. James Dobson
  • Establish authority by applying consequences, quickly and consistently
  • Respond to BEHAVIOR, not attitude
  • Act before you get angry
  • Be consistent and predictable

It will take a while to break the 5 year old habit, but it can be broken. She will eventually learn that when she {insert bad behavior here}, she is {insert consequence here}, every time, without fail, and so will stop {insert bad behavior}.

It is simple. Not easy, in fact quite difficult. But simple and straight-forward.

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It seems that you have your hands full, with a 5 year old and a grandmother to take care off. I hope you have some time for yourself as well!

I've recently read "How to listen so kids will talk and how to talk so kids will listen". It has helped me a lot to communicate with my kids (aged 6 and 8).

One part is just describing what you see "I see that all the toys are on the floor". Surprisingly, this works much better with my kids than "Clean the toys away". If that does not work, you can explain what that makes you feel "I'm really exhausted and seeing all this toys in the floor makes me want to go to bed and sleep forever".

The techniques are based in respecting your child, and letting her know what you're experiencing.

About napping, maybe it's not needed for her anymore. You can tell her that you need the time, so what about quiet time (drawing or reading) so mummy can have her rest.

Good luck

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I really like "logical consequences". This is when you choose to do something as a result of the child's behavior that is related to what they've done. It's not specifically a punishment, the way hitting them or grounding them might be, but it makes some sort of sense.

Take the example of putting the toys away. When my kids were that age, toys were kept in boxes on low shelves in the living room. There were higher shelves the kids couldn't reach. I told them that I didn't always have time to put their toys away, and they should really be the ones to do it. "If I put them away," I said, "I will put them up high, and only bring them down on days I have time to clean them up." Eventually came a day when the toys were not put away and I put them up high. Later they asked to get them down. "Not right now, because I don't have time to clean them up later." "But we'll clean them up!" "You might, but you don't always, and I can't be sure." Then a short time later I got the toys down for them and reminded them "if you put them away, you can always get them back out again when you want them." This worked. They mostly put them away when they were done. (No-one is perfect.) They developed the habit, and they wanted to be the ones in control of that part of their lives.

In contrast, "do that right now because I am yelling at you" or "do that right now or else I will hit you, put you in timeout, or take something from you" never worked for us. I hated it when I heard other parents say "I see you have chosen to go to your room for a while" and carry them away while the child screamed "Nooooo! Don't wanna!!! Stay heeeeere!". That approach seemed to involve pretending not to care about the child's feelings. It also didn't feel like it gave the child control.

Some logical consequences I have used starting as young as two:

  • if we can get out the door in the next five minutes there is time to stop at the park on the way, if not we will have to go straight there
  • if you tidy this up while I tidy that up, we will have time to play [something specific] together afterwards but if I have to do it all I will not have time to play
  • if you can't talk to me politely right now please don't talk to me until you can
  • if you make your lunch you can choose what fruit goes in it
  • if you get dressed yourself you can choose your own socks. Or if you come over here to the dresser and root around in it you can choose your own socks.

This way instead of being a begging servant "ok sweetie, you hate the blue socks, no problem, would you possibly consent to wearing these lovely green socks, no of course not how foolish of me, would these be ok?" or a tyrant "dammit this is my house and I paid for all these socks and you will wear the ones I choose" you can instead put the control in the child's hands (you probably don't care which socks she wears as long as she wears some) and take some of the effort and burden off yourself.

Give them control, and more relaxed play time together, in exchange for taking on some of the work of their life. (You would rather play with her than argue with her, right? Playing with your kids is a major reward of being a parent.)

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Ask her what's wrong. The change is probably extremely disrupting for her, and it sounds like she blames you for it. Also, if she is too active, this may be further stressing her system.

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i don't thin its the transition because things are going very well and she only does cheer and school. I'm not sure if this is just a phase or something serious and if its a phase how long will it last and what techniques should I use to cope with the tantrums and the attitude? –  maggie niehoff Sep 22 '13 at 23:20
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Yet the evidence suggests otherwise. I'm reading a book at the moment called "Happiest Toddler on the Block". It has lots of suggestions, but your child is outside that range. Perhaps there is a follow up book. It's basic technique is to talk to the child with respect and show that you understand what the child wants and feels, before getting the child to do something. –  Dave Clarke Sep 23 '13 at 7:43

Parenting is hard work, especially if you are the main one responsible for it right now.

A parenting class could be very helpful if there are any offered near where you live, especially if you the advice you are getting from others doesn't seem to be working. These usually meet once a week for an hour or so and run over several weeks, and discipline is one of the main topics that are covered. There are a couple big advantages of these over a book in my mind- you have the opportunity to ask questions, and you get to share/hear stories of other people experiencing exactly the same problems you are (or worse!)

Besides searching online you might find out about classes available near you by calling your pediatrician's office, local hospitals, library etc. The classes are often free or low cost.

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